GFI WebMonitor is robust web filtering, web monitoring and web security solution, that provides administrators with more than 70 categories of websites from which to choose and provide granular flexibility when applying policies. However, how many of us really understand what these categories mean, how they are used and which ones we should choose and base our policies on?

The first category of websites you would typically want to block would be “Adult and Pornography”, and this is what most people do. However, there are other categories which are less obvious but just as important and which you could (and probably should) use to apply different types of policies. Did you know that unless you block “Proxy Avoid and Anonymizers”, users can quickly outsmart your efforts to monitor and filter, and possibly expose the network to web threats and other risks?

Here are a few categories which can be used to define various types policies, based on different needs and pain points. It should be noted that these categories and recommendations are generic in nature, rather than a complete or definite way of creating policies.

1. Productivity Loss: These are sites that users can lose track of the amount of time spent on them. Instead of blocking them completely, these sites are perfect candidates for a browsing threshold quota:

  • Auctions – grab that bargain! Sites such as eBay can be huge time hogs.
  • Dating – maybe the workplace is not the right place to spend time to find your soul mate, or repair a broken heart.
  • Gambling / Games – your boss would not be very  happy if he found out you were spending a lot of time on these online activities.
  • Pay to surf – you’re already getting paid, probably not to surf though.
  • Social Networks – social networking addiction – do you suffer from F.A.D. (Facebook Addiction Disorder)?

There are other categories that have great potential as productivity losers (Entertainment, Music, Sports, Shopping, Travel, Recreation and Hobbies); however, you want to increase productivity and not create a strict policy which fuels resentment among employees. In the same manner as you wouldn’t want to eliminate cigarette breaks, a limited amount of leisure surfing can be healthy.

2. Security: Your web filtering policies can also be used to improve and maintain a high level of security on your network. It is recommended that these categories of websites are blocked to increase browsing security:

  • Malware Sites – these are websites which are known to distribute malicious content.
  • Phishing and Other Frauds – confirmed phishing sites and other fraudulent websites.
  • Spyware and Adware – sites which distribute software which is gathering information or tracking a user without their consent.
  • Bot Nets – compromised URLs or IP addresses from where network attacks can be launched.
  • Confirmed spam Sources / spam URLs – sites which either originate spam or which are advertised using spam.
  • Hacking – sites which develop or distribute hacking software or tools.
  • Proxy Avoid and Anonymizers / Open HTTP Proxies – these are typically used by individuals who are trying to bypass the web filtering software.

3. Bandwidth Hogs: A number of websites can cause serious bandwidth issues if not properly controlled:

  • Online Personal Storage – these sites tend to host large file downloads such as TV series, movies and music. There are better ways of saturating your company’s bandwidth.
  • Streaming Media – sites hosting TV, radio streams or online video (YouTube). A few users streaming internet radio can quickly overwhelm the Internet connection. These include downloads which you to tend to forget to switch off when you “go for a meeting”.
  • Peer-2-Peer – torrents, torrent clients and other peer-to-peer content.

4. Warning Flags: These categories, even if left unblocked, may cause problems for an organization if accessed during office hours. Administrators should be aware of the risks, including legal liability:

  • Abused Drugs / Marijuana – repeated access to these sites by individuals should be flagged.
  • Weapons – employees found accessing weapons sites, especially in locations where firearms may not be legally permitted, may require additional monitoring.
  • Questionable – sites which promote hostility, harm towards groups or individuals, race or ethnicity. And tasteless humor.
  • Gambling – depending on the frequency of use by an employee, this is another type of site that may require further investigation – particularly if access occurs during work hours.
  • Job Search – you’re being paid to do your job, not find your next one!
  • Keyloggers and Monitoring – is somebody planning something sneaky?
  • Nudity / Sex Education / Swimsuits and Intimate Apparel – are we trying to bypass the “Adult and Pornography” block
  • Translation – repeated access to these sites may also indicate attempts to bypass the web filtering software

For a more detailed description about each category, take a look at the following article: http://kbase.gfi.com/showarticle.asp?id=KBID003521